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Toby’s legend is growing

Ryan Slabaugh

The group approached the big jump at the bottom of the run, one Dawson had never seen before, prompting some of the other riders to ask what a “mogul skier” could do.

Dawson took off and landed a Lincoln Loop – a modified barrel roll – and showed he’s more than just a master of the bumps.

“As far as just pure skiing talent, he’s one of the most talented kids I’ve ever seen,” said Dano Bruno of Rossignol, his friend and techie on the World Cup circuit. “In my opinion, he’s more talented than Jeremy Bloom, who’s a great athlete and one of the best. But for just skiing alone, Toby’s got it.”



He’s showed the world what he could do in 2001 at the final World Cup event, which he won in a ski-off, struggled last year, and then returned to form this season with two fourth-place finishes and a championship Saturday in Italy. Now that he’s the overall points leader in the world, his career has taken him a long way from his days in Vail, growing up as an adopted child. He was born in South Korea, but when he was three-years old, Mike and Deborah Dawson brought him into their family and taught him how to ski.

“I am probably one of the most fortunate people in the world,” Dawson said. “Look at what I have been blessed with in my life. I have an amazingly supportive family that I am proud to be a part of. I have had every opportunity growing up and I’m happy to have done something with it.”



When Toby turned 12, he already was an accomplished skier, racing alpine events all over Colorado. While the strict format of ski racing turned him off, the wild forms of freestyle caught his eye. One of the foremost leaders of the movement at the time was Mike Kloser, another long-time Vail resident, who started a professional tour in 1981 that featured just one event, but grew over time.

Kloser, along with coaches Scott and Patty Kauff and Gary Margot, knew Toby had the talent as soon as he saw the young man among his students.

“It was just a given that one day he’d be an Olympian,” said Kloser, who saw the tour he started grow and grow, but eventually be overshadowed by the World Cup. “We all knew he could be one of the best in the world. We all saw it. And now, I think the World Cup program is far above and beyond what the pro program was when it first started. These guys are so skilled and so disciplined. Toby has taken it above and beyond what skiing was in those days.”



In a World Cup freestyle event, competitors are judged on turns, air and speed, with the top-12 skiers qualifying in the finals. Scores are reset for the finals and the top 12 complete runs in the reverse order of their qualification. The best in the world are able to keep perfect rhythm on the run, all the while not repeating tricks on the jumps set up on the course.

Toby’s been working on several new tricks to incorporate into his repertoire.

“I’ve learned the flat spin 360-540-720, both front and backside,” he said. “I am trying to incorporate these tricks into the moguls. I haven’t competed with the tricks but it’s not that far off.”

And so, from the far-off lands of Europe, he offers advice to the upcoming freestyle hopefuls.

On moguls, Toby says: “I believe that carving in the moguls is the best technique. Many people pivot and slide between the moguls, causing them to be off balance and twisted up. Keep everything going straight down the fall line and ski as you would the flats. Use the mogul as a guideline for your turn. You should be flexing your ski in a carve down the backside of the moguls and (lift off) just before the face of the next mogul.”

And for those desiring to start doing tricks, Toby offers some easy advice. “I would recommend a solid takeoff,” he said. “Once you figure this out, the sky’s the limit on what you do in the air.”

All and all, Toby says, the World Cup circuit is hard on the body and on the mind. While success may make some of his travels easier, he still says he misses home.

“Vail was an amazing place to grow up,” Toby said. “The people and community were always very supportive. I feel very fortunate to have had grown up with a world-class mountain for a backyard. Freestyle has always been a a big part of the valley.”

Ryan Slabaugh is a sports writer for the Vail Daily. Contact him at (970) 949-0555 ext. 608 or at rslabaugh@vaildaily.com.


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